Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “God is Our Guide” based on Job 38 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered: Sunday, June 24, 2018
About a year after we were married, Shelly and I took a trip out west to Boise, Idaho. While there, we went white water rafting. Now, in high school I remember rafting the Wolf River here in Wisconsin and canoeing down the Crystal River, but this was the North Fork of the Payette River…a main tributary to the Snake River and a stretch of water experts have deemed one of the most challenging class of rapids in the country, maybe even the world.
Rapids are rated by class – 1,2,3,4 and 5. On the Payette River you can’t just hop on a raft and float. You need a guide. A good guide will help the rafters learn how to paddle through some of the lower class rapids. A good guide will know how to avoid the dangerous waters – the class 4 and class 5 rapids. A good guide will know when a group of rafters is ready for something more challenging and when they need to stick with more mild waters. A good guide has one job – get those rafters through the waters safely.
That trip to Boise was a blast. And that rafting experience is one I’ll never forget. White water rafting, while challenging, is fun. The river of life often brings us through some pretty choppy waters and it isn’t always fun. In our Lord we have a good guide…a perfect guide…a powerful and loving guide. He knows (better than we do) when we can handle or when our faith can benefit from class 2 or 3 rapids and he knows how to keep many rough waters away from us altogether. But he has one job – get us through the waters of life so we can arrive safely to heaven…with our soul and faith in tact.
The book of Job introduces us to a very devout and godly believer. The Bible tells us he was a believer who lived is faith, prayed for his children, and worshiped the Lord. His waters were smooth and serene. But then the Lord allows a series of class 5 rapids to come crashing down and around Job. His possessions were taken away, his children (all ten of them) were killed in a tornado-like accident, his good health was replaced with sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. His wife and his friends offer no words of support or comfort, only bad advice. Job’s faith was rocked. He still trusted the Lord, but he had questions:
• Why me, Lord? Why are you doing this?
• Surely I don’t deserve what you have given me, especially since so many wicked people out there seem to be prospering.
• Why, Lord? If you have the power, why not make my life better?
• Explain yourself, God!
Ever been there? What rough waters have you been through?….are you going through now?…how would you classify the severity of those rapids?
• Raising a family isn’t easy. Raising teenagers…raising toddlers…raising teenagers and toddlers.
• Being a teenager isn’t easy. Extra responsibilities…Extra peer pressures…Extra temptations.
• Relationships aren’t easy….picking up the pieces after a family has been broken apart – not easy.
• It’s hard to paddle through when finances are tight, when my body hurts, when old age is taking its toll, when memories of my loved one
still bring daily tears to my eyes.
Like Job, these rough waters don’t make us lose our faith, but we have our moments. We have our quiet, behind-the-scenes moments where we look up to heaven and ask, Why me, Lord? Surely, Lord, you could just reach out your hand and make my life a little better, a little easier. Why don’t you? Don’t you care about me?
I have a question for the children and teenagers. Have you ever heard one of your parents say something like this….particularly after you might have been arguing about something or complaining that some decision they made was unfair: “Maybe you’d like to try running this household. If you think you could do a better job of being a parent, then you can start paying all the bills and doing all the maintenance on the house and the vehicles and setting up all the doctor and dentist appointments and buying all the school clothes and school supplies for your siblings…if you think you can be such a better parent.”
That’s kind of how the Lord responds to Job. Job is starting to question the Lord and some of his actions or lack of actions. The Lord speaks. The Lord doesn’t feel the need to justify his decisions or to give answer to Job’s complaints. But he simply reminds him that he is certainly capable of his job – getting Job to heaven not making his life easy. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
Do you think you could do better? When we consider how God created the world and now cares for the world….when we consider how he keeps the lakes and the streams and the oceans in place…when we consider how he set the stars and galaxies in place…how he made the animal kingdom – some creatures so powerful, yet they answer to their creator (he spends a couple more chapters talking about this), are we really going to call God into our office, sit him down in a chair across from our executive desk, and lecture him on how he should do this or do that in our life? O Lord, in our weak moments, we speak about things we do not know. Forgive us.
Just a word about Job. He lived during the time of Abraham. That means he didn’t have a Bible on his bookshelf or coffee table. So many of the Gospel promises we have known since our youth, Job simply didn’t have.
• Can you imagine going through choppy waters without having God speaking to you and guiding you in his Scriptures?
• Can you imagine being tired and weary but not knowing about Jesus invitation: Come to me, and I will give you rest?
• Can you imagine a guilty conscience and the weight of sin pressing so heavy upon you without also hearing Isaiah shout out – Yes,
we’ve gone astray, just like sheep…and the LORD has lifted our iniquity off our backs and laid it on Jesus?
• Can you imagine feeling alone and not knowing how Jesus has said: Surely I am with you…always?
• Can you imagine going through a class 4 or 5 rapid without having the assurance that this too will be a blessing to your faith and
that adversity will cause you to cling to the life raft of God’s promises all the more.
• Can you imagine losing a loved one, without the words of Jesus – because I live you will live – echoing from the mouth of the empty
All the angels shouted for joy when the Lord displayed his power after his creation was complete. The angels shouted for joy when the Lord sent his one and only Son into this world. The angels shout for joy when sinners repent and turn to the Lord. And won’t they shout when the Lord our guide accomplishes his goal…as he guides us through the rough waters…and brings us safely to the other side of the shore.
Certainly a God who has the power to control all creation…a God who has the compassion to give us his Son…if THE God who serves as our capable guide. Amen.